A/N: Written for Day 12 of my 25 Days of Westallen Fanfiction event.
*Many thanks to sendtherain for beta'ing.
*I own nothing. No copyright infringement intended.
Chapter 1 -
She twirled the small straw in her drink, wondering how she'd wound up in this bar again after two weeks of solemnly swearing she would never return. When the green olive slipped down the straw with a plop, splattering some of the alcohol onto her hand, she realized she would always know the answer to that question. She sighed and stuck the olive back onto the tiny straw, lifting it to her lips to swallow it whole. Her luck being what it was, the olive slipped off the straw again before it reached her lips and tumbled onto the floor, leaving a wet trail down her uncovered arm and a dark spot on her cotton dress before settling on the tile next to her stool.
"Need another?" the bar tender asked, suddenly before her. He'd either witnessed the event or assumed she'd eaten it while he was otherwise occupied. Not that he could have been. The place was dead tonight.
Of course it's dead, Iris. You know the nights it's busy and the nights it isn't, and you didn't want to get hit on tonight. It's not flattering anymore. It's annoying.
She shook her head at the bartender.
He pursed his lips and nodded, slipping away to the other end of the bar to make sure his inventory was where it needed to be. He knew her, and he knew she wasn't intending to be rude with her bark. She just needed to be left alone. That's why she came tonight. She needed to forget too. That's why she was on her third glass of vodka and annoyed that she was holding her liquor so well.
Maybe you should go home, Iris. Oh, wait. You don't have a home to go back to. You have no family in town – not that they'd take you in anyway. You're the black sheep. And your roommate just kicked you out, threatened to call her big, buff brother who can't stand you if you were so much as spotted out the front window. Oh, and you're broke so you can't afford a hotel room.
She thought about asking how late the dim-lit bar was open, but there was no point.
1 a.m. It was nearly midnight.
Carelessly tossing the miniature straw to the side, Iris lifted her glass to her lips and swallowed a good portion of it down. Another drink wasn't happening tonight. She had just enough money in her wallet for the three.
She could ask the bartender if he could put her up for the night. He was a solid guy who wouldn't take advantage of her and she presumed he had a couch.
But she didn't want him to get comfortable with her being in his space. It was one thing to spill all your troubles to a handsome stranger behind a bar. It was quite another to sleep on his couch because said troubles had left you without a home.
Her ears pricked at the sound of the door to the bar opening and closing. It was a distinct sound accompanied by a rush of wind. December was cruel to Central City. But the chill faded when the door shut with a soft whoosh. She thought about turning around to see who it was but decided to wish whoever it was away. At the very least they could take whatever beverage they'd came for and sit at a table on the far side of the room. If they had the decency to do that she might not lash out.
She didn't usually lash out, but tonight the only guy she didn't hate was the bartender, and that was only because he was twenty-eight and looked fifteen. She couldn't wound him any more than she could the brother who wouldn't speak to her.
"Brandy," the stranger said, a sexy rasp to his voice Iris couldn't help but notice as his long coat brushed her backside when he came to sit behind her.
She was annoyed, for sure, but she was also intrigued. She didn't lash out, and at one point she even moved a little bit closer.
The stranger turned to her when their elbows brushed. She could feel him checking her out without even looking at him, but he didn't speak to her, and after a moment he was focused on the drink placed in front of him.
"Thanks," he said to the bartender, who nodded when he handed over the cash required. "Keep the change," he added, and Iris couldn't help but snort. She hadn't meant to do that out loud, but apparently she just couldn't help herself.
"Very charitable of you," she mumbled into her drink when he did nothing but stare at her.
"I don't think we've met."
She turned to look at him, ignoring the pooling heat forming between her legs.
She said nothing, only took another sip of her drink.
"And you are?"
When she continued to say nothing, the bartender surprisingly stepped in.
"She's Iris," he paused a beat before adding. "And a regular."
Iris glared at him, feeling betrayed and annoyed. It wasn't the end of the world to pass on her real name, but the second bit hurt. She didn't appreciate the reminder.
The bartender shrugged before moving away. She couldn't stay mad even if she tried, but the fact that she was attracted to the handsome, new stranger made the public of her habits feel just shy of humiliating.
"Iris," the stranger said, speaking the word as if he were tasting it on his tongue. "That's a pretty name." He tipped some of his drink into his mouth, savoring it.
"Is brandy your poison?" she reluctantly asked, trying to suppress her curiosity.
"Is Vodka yours?" he countered, raising an eyebrow.
God, his eyes are gorgeous.
"It's a bad habit."
"Habits are hard to break."
"Easy to form though," she said, turning towards him, pushing her elbow to the ledge so her cleavage was enhanced. She didn't look away when he looked down at it.
"You looking to form a new one tonight?" he asked huskily, and she knew right then she was going to seduce him. He wasn't even making it hard.
She leaned in oh so very close.
"Depends." She checked him out, liking what she saw. "Is the handsome, new stranger up for it?"
Heat flowed off him in waves, concentrated in her direction from the direct line of his coat collar to the deep cut of her dress. One minute they were having eye sex, the next they were in the unisex bathroom having real sex on the sink and the toilet and against the wall, and when they finished, both half-dressed and panting on the floor, the stranger turned to look at her.
"My bed is a lot more comfortable than this floor."
Iris had just started to think how she should've invited herself to his place before their clothes started coming off, but luckily, he had done it for her. The sultry, sexy stranger was likely a romantic at heart. Not that it mattered after tonight.
She got to her feet, dressing as she did so, and then looked down at him pointedly.
"Then lead the way, stranger," she ordered. "But maybe get dressed first. I hear it's a bit chilly outside."
He smirked but did as she said. The door swung open by his hand in no time.
"After you, Miss West."
She halted halfway out the door when she did that.
"You know me," she said.
He shrugged, and she narrowed her eyebrows.
"How do you know me?" she demanded.
He pulled a small card out of his pocket, and when he handed it to her, she saw it was his wallet. Her eyes widened when she looked back up at him.
"You're a thief."
"I did some time for some petty thieving back when I was sixteen. I haven't stolen since." He smiled slowly. "Well, until tonight."
"Still want to come home with me?"
She debated her options – go home with a criminal or freeze to death on the bench outside the door.
She was going to regret this, and she knew it.
"How much time?" she asked warily.
He raised his eyebrows, amused.
"One night in a jail cell."
Her eyes narrowed.
"What did you steal?"
"A necklace for my dying mother."
She analyzed him, trying to gauge if he was telling the truth. She supposed it didn't matter, since all she needed was one night indoors.
"Does it matter if I'm telling the truth?" he asked, reading her mind.
She met his eyes, more alarmed than ever.
"Do you have a couch to sleep on?"
"Nope." Her jaw dropped. "Just one very large, very comfortable bed." He paused. "And a landline phone if you decide you need to call 9-1-1."
"I have my own phone, thank you very mu-" She lost her voice as he pulled her phone out of his pocket and then held it out to her.
She snatched it back, unnerved.
"Is there anything you didn't steal?" she barked.
He laughed. "Your dignity?" She fumed. "Pretty sure you gave that away all on your own."
"I don't have to listen to this." She strutted away, furious and a little scared.
"Iris-" the bartender tried, but she ignored him, quickly slipping on her coat and heading straight for the door.
The handsome new stranger-slash-freak of nature-slash-criminal was close at her heels, and he closed in around her just before she could reach for the door. He lowered his lips to whisper in her ear, igniting all her senses.
"Everything I took from you I gave back. How's that for redemption?"
She didn't care. She wanted away from him now.
"You need a place to stay, don't you?" he teased, letting his hand slide down the side of her body.
"You son of a-"
"Is everything okay?" The bartender started to come out from behind the bar.
"Everything's fine," the stranger said, pulling his hand away. He glanced over his shoulder. "She just needs a place to stay for the night, and she'd rather not stay with a stranger. Can you help her?"
"Oh, yeah, of course." He came towards them and the stranger backed away, so he didn't look quite so dangerous. "You can crash on my couch upstairs, Iris. I have some spare blankets and pillows you can use."
She sighed inwardly and agreed with the voice in her head that said she better take this option now, even if it hadn't been ideal before.
"Thanks, Teddy, that'd be great."
He smiled, reassuringly, then looked back at the stranger.
"Will you be staying for a while, Sir?"
No, no, no, no. Please, God, no.
The stranger smiled both at Teddy and then at Iris.
"No, I think I've had enough fun for one evening." He leaned in close to Iris' ear and whispered, "Good night, Iris."
Then he had walked around her and was out the door, and her breath was stolen from her.
"Are you sure you're okay, Iris?" Teddy asked, clearly worried for her.
"Yeah, Teddy, I'm fi-"
"He didn't do anything to you, did he?" he asked, surprising her by how protective he sounded suddenly.
She smiled serenely. "Nothing that I didn't want him to do," she said, which made him blush.
As she walked past him back into the bar, she knew it was the truth. Even with the bomb of him doing time and stealing vital things right under her nose, which should and definitely did scare her, in the moment she felt a thrill.
Unlike most girls, she'd never been particularly drawn to the bad boys. But thinking back on their encounter, she now understood the appeal. She bit her bottom lip as she slid herself back onto the stool he'd abandoned. The warmth had long dissipated, but the memory kept her feeling hot.
"Do you need another drink, Iris?" Teddy ventured. "It'll be on me."
She met his eyes and tried to suppress the suggestive grin summoned from her memories.
"No thanks, Teddy," she said politely. Then a sultry smirk emerged despite herself. "But I will take an olive."